Friday, 25 October 2013

Cupcake Commissions

Justice has been done... Frances won the Great British Bake Off! I personally reckon they only went on about her producing things with "style over substance" to keep the others 'in the game'. She's has insanely good taste (including the same casio watch as me!) Ha!

Just wish I had a baking repertoire to match hers....; one day!
Sticking with what I know well, I had 2 baking requests last month.
Firstly, alien cakes for Monty's 4th "Outer Space" themed party:-

They were a bit fiddly (and I had help from Bella and Scanners) so dread to think how long 30 of these would've taken otherwise!
In my frenzied baking there was someone who wasn't taking it quite as seriously though!

Not a great deal to say about the alien cakes really; I quite liked them; I wouldn't want to eat one though to be honest. The ears and antennae were made from:-

cut out with a teardrop shaped cutter, kindly loaned to me by Georgina and texture applied with a "leaf veining tool". Then the eyes were made from white royal icing too and black detail applied with a dr Oetker icing pen. The frosting was the basic buttercream from the original hummingbird book, tinted with a green wilton food gel but the cakes themselves were a new one for me that I randomly found, and I liked them a lot! 

And I had next to no time to get M a card so I made one and utilised the free stickers that came with "The dinosaur that pooped a planet" book that I bought for the school library...

And then came the cakes for Dave's parents' 50th wedding anniversary party...
And I made a few of these as an experiment as it had been a long time since I'd made them for Kelly's wedding. 

I needn't have worried though and they came out perfectly once again, my only difference being that I used the corn oil that Dave gave me after the last supper club. Apparently, it's one that counts as a "flavourless" oil.

Here are the full instructions for these lovely cupcakes:-

Also keen to point out that Frances used this pineapple idea for her showstopper wedding cake in the final. I'll stop hero-worshipping soon (probably).

And Dave liked the design and it fitted his brief of NO BLING perfectly, but then he went and ordered edible rice paper heads of his parents. So I just ate these:-

Plan B didn't happen either though as the heads didn't arrive so I regretted eating my pineapple flowers and rushed to TESCOs for some emergency embellishments....

For the cakes with the raspberry jam filling I used raspberries and mint...

and dried pineapple, coconut and a pecan to tie in with the flavours in the hummingbird cakes. 

And they were boxed and ready to go as soon as he knocked the door leaving us an extra 5 minutes to worry about where to buy balloons and which suit he should wear!

And I was just about to launch into cheesecakes galore but I think that'll keep for a few days,
 plus I have baking to do (what a surprise!)

Jo :)

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The cool kids are drinking Campari (and his cousins!)

Drinks from the Italian Campari group are having a huge resurgence; I'm noticing it everywhere!
No self-respecting drinks list in Barcelona didn't feature an Aperol Spritzer. It was only right to see what all the fuss was about...

It's bitter, it looks like lucozade but it's strangely addictive and once you adjust to how unusual it is... Wow! At 11% strength (half that of Campari) it's one of the weaker liqueurs out there...

When I introduced Annabel to it the other day she said "it reminds me of Irn Bru" - I'm not sure I totally go along with that, but in any case, the problem being??? I love Irn Bru too, when I visited Liz in Fife we took a detour to have this:-

Irn Bru flavoured ice cream; oh yes! It's weird but so good!

So I bought myself a bottle of Aperol, this stuff is easy to get your hands on and it only took a trip to Sainsburys. This guardian article explains how you can make yourself an Aperol spritz in the comfort of your own home...

I'm not sure why he felt the need to keep saying "optional gin" - that would appear to me too much like a "negroni" (a massively alcoholic concoction that seems, sorry to be sexist, more of a "manly drink"). I "got through" my experiment of drinking this, feeling more than a bit guilty for not realising all it's constituent alcoholic parts on James's round.

As well as this, David has "helpfully" got me into this:-

Now owned by the Campari group too, this is a liqueur made from... artichokes. Being the determined person that he is, Dave tracked down the only place in Bristol to sell it (Aqua) but even they didn't have it last weekend. I checked with the dumbfounded barman who was trying to push "a new kind of mojito" onto us. He looked straight back at me with poppy eyes repeating "A liqueur made from artichokes?" which was promptly followed by "but why would you want that?" I'd have been inclined to agree if I hadn't tasted Dave's "Cynar (pronounced Chin-arrr") on the rocks, previously. It was the obvious choice of birthday gift for Dave last week and Scanners and I treated him to a bottle. I did, however, have to order it online. My 'googling' has taught me it's popular in Switzerland and often mixed with orange juice, and regarded as a 'digestif' as well as an 'aperetif' because of it's artichoke component. Give it a go...

And finally, there's this:-

 And, just as my obsession with these beverages with hitting it's peak, there it was... a recipe for Campari and Cantaloupe lolipops by Shutterbean (one of my favourite food bloggers). So I made them at the "Karen-van". Alcoholic ice lollies; it's what school summer holidays {for over 18's} are made of!
I am not going to beat the photography of Tracy Shutterbean; I'm not even gonna try, but if this idea floats your boat here you go...

I have a confession, these drinks are not my only obsession at the moment.
There's also this:-

Yeah, I know; don't judge me; I didn't murder anyone!

And I haven't gone this far (yet;)

Oh, and there's also this:-

It's had a lot of bad press lately but I used it loads on my 3 Spanish city breaks and I'm on a "reviewing frenzy" at the moment posting my humble opinion. I used to get offered quite a few Mystery Customer assignments with a company I found a few years ago but I think tripadvisor has filled that gap now.

Anyway, 'necessity is the mother of invention' as they say, and with Spain's crumbling economy Barcelona got creative...!

The first clandestine eatery I read about was this:-

Yep, a drycleaners...

Except it's not; 'Tintoria Dontell' means "Don't tell" and it's a pretend shop front that you walk into and then they mock finger print you and lead you down a long corridor lined with white leather sofas until you get to this completely over-the-top secret supper club...

How ridiculously cool is that!

We also read about a few other smaller affairs that were "pop-ups" hosted in all manner of places but a permanent fixture is this "prohibition style, Bugsy Malone-esque" supper club; "Speakeasy",
that's "secretly" accessed by walking through the kitchen of "Martinis".

This place plays homage to "all things martini" with hundreds of different cocktails. I think it's probably top of my list of places to go next time.

Although my envy was shortlived as I remembered the uber-cool, clandestine, "Milk thistle" Bristol has that "does 1920s glam" like nowhere else I've ever seen...! I love it (but go on payday!)

And so back to Barcelona... not to be missed, housed in MNAC (Museu Nacional de Catalunya)
{The national art museum} is the multiple award winning "Oleum" restaurant

The views were breathtaking...

You earn them a bit though at 'Oleum' as you trek on up to this museum via a pile of steps interspersed with outdoor escalators, and if you eat here (at a price that's not outrageous) you will be viewing the city from where those 3 arched windows are just below the dome... Ahhhhh!

And finally, there's ice-cream to be had, very good ice-cream, and if you're like me you'll be glad you went out of your way to find it...

First up "Gelaati!"

With an "ice-cream lab" at the back. I opted for this very niche combo with sheep's milk, saffron, ricotta and pistachios. I'll admit, it sounds disgusting and I actually hate saffron but something told me to go for it and it tasted sensational!

And just outside Barcelona in Girona, the multiple michelin starred restaurant "El Celler de can roca" now own an ice-cream shop, but it's not just any ice-cream shop, it's called "Rocambolesc" and it's so cute it hurts!

Ladios; Barcelona you were amazing! 

Jo :)